With an optional trip on the Strathspey Steam Railway.

Edinburgh – Forth Bridge – Pitlochry – Blair Atholl – Dalwhinnie (whisky distillery) – Aviemore – Strathspey Railway (optional) – Scottish Highlands – Inverness

EDI flights available from: London-Luton (Easyjet); London-Gatwick (Easyjet); London-Stansted (Easyjet & Ryanair).

INV flights available to: London-Luton (Easyjet).

This trip can be made in either direction (ie from Inverness to Edinburgh too), and there is no difference in which direction you travel (it will all depend on your own itinerary).

1. Edinburgh Airport (EDI) to Edinburgh city centre.

You can reach central Edinburgh from Edinburgh Airport, by train, tram, bus or taxi.

See the following for the current methods (April 2018):
edinburgh-airport-from-edinburgh-city-centreImage: Edinburgh Airport

Edinburgh Airport website: www.edinburghairport.com

2. Edinburgh to Pitlochry (train).

The first section of the Highland Main Line, in this direction.

The most notable part of this journey is as the train travels across the architectural marvel that is the Forth Bridge (or Forth Rail Bridge as it is sometimes called – to differentiate it from the Forth Road Bridge) just outside of Edinburgh. A UNESCO World Heritage site. Not near it, but actually on it. Affording excellent views of the recently-built Queensferry Crossing (road bridge).

If still bedecked with flowers, Pitlochry railway station must surely be a contender for the most beautiful railway station in the UK.

Of the two villages, Pitlochry and Blair Atholl (which is next), Pitlochry has way more to see and do. And as a consequence attracts many more visitors. So it’s a personal choice, maybe you can afford the time to stay at both? But having “more to do” has never been my personal preference, I would always choose the more remote option, and enjoy a more intimate experience of the Highlands, and of Highland hospitality (while enjoying the exact same scenery).

But there can be no doubt, there is far more to see and do in Pitlochry.

Pitlochry is also home to the Blair Athol Whisky Distillery, which is within easy walking distance of the train station.

3. Pitlochry to Blair Atholl (train).

Returning to the Highland Main Line, for part II (and a very short journey). The line now enters the Cairngorms National Park.

This is Scotland at its finest. And the area around Atholl is also central to Scotland’s history. The River Garry rushes through the heart of Atholl like a silver thread linking all the villages and glens. The lively Atholl rivers combine with the mountains, hills and glens to create some of the finest scenery in Scotland, and the Atholl villages offer some of the finest hospitality in a natural, unspoiled setting.

There are few accommodation options in Blair Atholl though (it really is tiny). So if you fancy stopping here then I would recommend that you book as soon as possible – the Atholl Arms, opposite Blair Castle, gets some pretty good reviews – and no crowds.

4. Blair Atholl to Dalwhinnie (train).

Returning to the Highland Main Line, for part III. The line continues to wind its way through the Cairngorms National Park.

Duration (between Blair Atholl and Dalwhinnie): just 21 minutes.

Tickets: You can buy your ticket, in advance, on the train operator’s (ScotRail) website: www.scotrail.co.uk

Situated in the beautiful Cairngorms National Park, the Dalwhinnie Distillery (home of the “gentle spirit”), is one of the few whisky distilleries in Scotland that is easily accessible by rail. You simply get off the train at Dalwhinnie station, and walk toward the pagodas of the distillery which are just a few minutes away.

Making Dalwhinnie an ideal whisky distillery to tour if you are visiting Edinburgh or Inverness.

Dalwhinnie Distillery website: www.malts.com/en-row/distilleries/dalwhinnie/

5. Dalwhinnie to Aviemore (train).

Returning to the Highland Main Line, for part IV. The railway now passes through the more mountainous terrain of the absolutely stunning Cairngorms National Park.

Duration (between Dalwhinnie and Aviemore): 28 minutes.

Tickets: You can buy your ticket, in advance, on the train operator’s (ScotRail) website: www.scotrail.co.uk

6. The Strathspey Railway (steam train – optional).

This is an absolutely magnificent sidetrip to take from Aviemore. Children are particularly fascinated by the sight, noise and smell of the steam engine.

The journey starts from exactly the same station in Aviemore as the one that the mainline train uses. So there is no wandering around looking for it. The journey is also return, so there is absolutely no chance of getting lost. You start from Aviemore, travel along the 10-mile section of restored railway line (the original Highland Railway Line) to Broomhill, via Boat of Garten, and then return in the opposite direction to Aviemore.

A light lunch or Traditional Afternoon Tea is served as you travel (depending on which service you take), and a very fine selection of Highland whisky is avialable (supplemented by some very fine, local craft ales).

And if you really fancy a splurge, and this I definitely recommend, then buy a First Class ticket – and travel in your very own 4-seat compartment in the First Class coach.

Strathspey Railway website: www.strathspeyrailway.co.uk

7. Aviemore to Inverness (train).

This is the last section of the Highland Main Line. It is also the most mountainous.

Duration (between Aviemore and Inverness): 40 minutes.

Tickets: You can buy your ticket, in advance, on the train operator’s (ScotRail) website: www.scotrail.co.uk

Where to eat in Inverness when you arrive? I have it on very good authority, that Platform 8 is the current place to eat in central Inverness, and is excellent. Both in the quality of the food, and in value for money.

8. Inverness city centre to Inverness Airport.

Bus: Number 11 (Stagecoach JetBus). Duration: 25-28 minutes.

Taxi: Available from immediately outside of Inverness Train Station. To prebook, Tel: 01463 222222. Duration: 15 minutes.

These “virtual” journeys are just my way of continuing to see the world, now that the progression of my ataxia means that lengthy travel is no longer a possibility for me. Hence the detail. By planning the journey in such detail, I end up knowing the route so well that I feel like I have been on it myself. Although in this case, I have.

So if this article has inspired you, saved you some valuable time (or even just saved you a few pounds/euros/dollars), please show your appreciation by making a donation to Ataxia UK (registered charity), by following this link:


100% of your donation goes directly, and immediately, to Ataxia UK (plus an additional 25% if you are a UK-taxpayer and have ticked the “Gift Aid” box).

And a personal request?

Share a photograph, that you take at some point on your journey, with me on Twitter. Not necessarily your “best” photograph, but the one photograph that will forever remind you of your journey.

That way I can live a little piece of the journey through your eyes.

Slàinte Mhath!